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Cyndi Lauper's Feminist Anthem Of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"
The first kernel of an idea rarely finishes as the final product. Cyndi Lauper’s "Girls Just Want To Have Fun” exemplifies that construct. The song, which became 1983’s feminist anthem, started out as a man’s glorification of bedroom shenanigans. Written by Robert Hazard, Lauper eye-rolled his lyrics and made it her own. As the singer recalled, "It was originally about how fortunate he was 'cause he was a guy around these girls that wanted to have 'fun' - with him - down there, which we do not speak lest we go blind."
Lauper also emphasized that “It doesn’t mean that girls just want to f#@k. It just means that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have.” Here’s the tale of how “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” became a feminist proclamation.
Feminism started long before the ‘80s. However, the “Decade of Greed” marked a radical change in women no longer kowtowing to the desires of men. As Lauper boldly declared, “It was very blatantly feminist. I would say, yeah, I’m a feminist, I burnt my training bra at the first demonstration. You got a problem with that?”
The sprightly singer took her cues from legends who came before who were also unafraid to confront the status quo. “I was raised with musicians that changed the world. I grew up on the Beatles, Motown, ‘Dancing in the Street,’ Otis Redding, a man saying ‘Try a Little Tenderness.’ That wasn’t a masculine quality.”
The music video, which eventually topped over 1 billion views on youtube, took a departure from the usual visual content by not exclusively featuring obscenely beautiful models. For Lauper inclusion was critical, "I wanted 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun' to be an anthem for women around the world - and I mean all women - and a sustaining message that we are powerful human beings. I made sure that when a woman saw the video, she would see herself represented, whether she was thin or heavy, glamorous or not, and whatever race she was.”
From her (correct) perspective, straight white guys had enough time as the center of culture. “For a minute, I made it popular to be the odd guy out,” said Lauper. “All of the sudden, the straight guy was the odd guy out, just for a minute—and that, to me, was justice.”
Of course, turning the song from a man’s exaltation of bedding chicks to a woman's revelation took some work. Lauper actually wanted nothing to do with the song but producer Rick Chertoff convinced her that it was a hit waiting to happen. Alongside Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of The Hooters, the foursome worked out how to make it fit the singer’s ethos.
In the end, they got an assist from another 80’s sensation, “Come On Eileen.” As Bazilian remembered, "I turned down the tempo knob on the drum machine, programmed in the same kick drum pattern as 'Come on Eileen,' clicked on my guitar, and played that guitar riff. She started singing, and that was it.”
Pop Culture Footprint
The song reached #2 on Billboard Hot 100, also receiving Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Despite the feminist message, the song offered something for everyone. New York Times music critic John Rockwell described it as, “a giddily upbeat attestation to female pleasure that simultaneously made a feminist statement, fulfilled male fantasies, and—especially in its often-played video version—evoked the warmth of family and friends.” The video even featured wrestler Captain Lou Albano and Lauper's mother!
The song became such a raging success that movie executives pushed a film of the same name, headlined by Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, and Shannen Doherty. Famous parody master Weird Al Yankovic was also pressed by his label to create his own version. Yankovic was leery of making a song that lampooned women but his label insisted.
Ultimately, he came up with "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch," which Lauper loved. As she wrote, "I like Weird Al. I LOVED 'Like a Surgeon.' I thought he was going to make MORE fun of Girls just wanna have lunch. But it wasn't hard. Because everybody thought I was an alien, I spoke funny and I dressed funny... Not hard to make fun of.”
Tags: Cyndi Lauper | Feminism
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